Jin Young Ko wins first LPGA major at ANA Inspiration

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

Jin Young Ko wins first LPGA major at ANA Inspiration

LPGA Tour

Jin Young Ko wins first LPGA major at ANA Inspiration

By

It certainly had its blemishes, but Jin Young Ko’s final round at the ANA Inspiration on Sunday was just what she needed to win her first LPGA major championship.

For the second day in a row, Ko saw a comfortable back-nine lead slip away, but a key birdie on the 16th hole allowed Ko to keep that lead and win the ANA Inspiration, the first major championship of the year.

“I can’t believe. I’m still excited. I mean, I can’t believe it. I don’t know,” Ko said after the round. “Always I had a little bit nervous (in) all the shots. So I’m just try calm down and like, focus and have fun this week.”

Ko managed a 2-under 70 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club for a tournament total of 10-under 278. That was three shots better than Mi Hyang Lee, who also shot 70 on Sunday on a warm and windless afternoon in Rancho Mirage.

SCORES: ANA Inspiration

Jin Young Ko

Jin Young Ko poses with the trophy after winning ANA Inspiration on April 7, 2019. (Photo: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

Lexi Thompson, the 2014 ANA Inspiration winner, finished her round nearly two hours before the final group with a 5-under 67, good enough to push her into third place at 282. In-Kyung Kim, who started the day in second place one shot behind Ko, struggled to a 74 on Sunday and finished at 283. She tied for fourth with Carlota Ciganda, who shot 68 on Sunday.

Ko’s victory, her fourth in her second full year on the LPGA, extended her remarkable hot streak at the start of the year. The 23-year-old Ko has played six tournaments this season, winning twice, finishing second twice and finishing third once. Not surprisingly, Ko is now No. 1 in the season-long Race to the CME Globe points race.

Ko was rock solid through the 12th hole Sunday with three birdies and one bogey, holding a three-shot lead while hitting fairways and greens with machine-like precision. But a drive into the rough on the 13th produced one bogey for Ko, and an approach shot into a bunker on the 15th hole led to another bogey.

But with the lead down to one shot, Ko rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th hole. Routine pars on the final two holes were enough to secure the biggest victory of Ko’s career.

After signing her card, Ko took the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond, becoming the fifth Korean player to take the champion’s leap at Mission Hills Country Club. Ko was joined in the leap by her caddie David Brooker, who had caddied for Grace Park and Lorena Ochoa in victories at the ANA Inspiration, and Ko’s manager Soo Jin Choi.

Jin Young Ko

Jin Young Ko jumps into Poppie’s Pond after winning ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills. (Photo: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

Lee, who vaulted into contention with a hole in one and a birdie on her final two holes on Saturday, played steady golf Sunday but didn’t make the push with birdies that could have caught Ko.

“I mean, I think I did not bad. I mean, I didn’t make the bogey back nine, so that is way better than second and third rounds,” Lee said. “So that was my goal, I would just come down and keep my plan (on) the back nine then.”

Lee’s one mistake on the back nine was a drive into the rough on the 18th fairway, a drive that meant she couldn’t go for the green in two shots. Instead, she made a two-putt par on the hole.

Thompson made an early run at the the lead, starting the day six shots behind Ko but making five birdies on the back nine to slip into third place, her third finish of third of higher in the Mission Hills major.

“Before I even stepped foot out on the golf course I had talked to Benji (her caddie), we had texted a little bit, and we said to each other, let’s just fire at every pin,” Thompson said. “We have to make birdies, and just don’t play away from any pins. I mean, yes, some of them were tucked so you have to play just a little right or left of them, but we were like, Let’s just go for the lowest score we possibly can.”


 

Latest

More Golfweek
Home